An Ohio appeals court overturned the murder conviction of a woman who allegedly lured her then-husband’s former girlfriend into a deadly trap.
Judges with the Court of Appeals in the Ninth Judicial Circuit determined that the trial court erred by letting confessed killer Chad Cobb testify remotely against defendant Erica Stefanko, 39, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They decided this violated Stefanko’s right to confront the witnesses against her in court on charges she helped kill Ashley Nicole Biggs, 25.
From the ruling authored by Judge Lynne Callahan:
There may, of course, be times when a defendant does not object to the use of remote testimony. There may be other occasions when, having considered the issue in the manner contemplated by the United States Supreme Court, a trial court determines that the remote testimony of individual witnesses is warranted by the circumstances and that the safeguards of the Confrontation Clause are adequately addressed. Neither situation, however, is present in this case.
Stefanko was convicted of aggravated murder, and murder in November 2020. Authorities said she called in an order to Domino’s, luring pizza delivery driver and Cobb’s ex-girlfriend Biggs to a trap, where Cobb committed the actual murder. After the slain woman did not return to work, her manager called police, according to the new ruling. Officers who responded to the address of the delivery found it was “pitch black,” and there was signs of a struggle, as well as “a significant amount of blood in the parking lot.”
BREAKING: Murder conviction overturned in OH v. #EricaStafanko – the pizza delivery murder.
The higher court ruled Stefanko’s righs were violated when co-defendant Chad Cobb was permitted to testify via video from the prison over State and Defense objections. pic.twitter.com/N0w8S8PFHm
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) July 27, 2022
Cobb and Biggs shared a daughter together but had a custody dispute. After learning of this from the Domino’s manager, police went to the home of Cobb’s grandparents, where they found him crouching behind a tree in nearby woods. A Wayne County deputy later found the murdered Biggs and her missing vehicle.
Facing the death penalty, Cobb eventually pleaded guilty to charges including aggravated murder and kidnapping. He made no deals to testify against or implicate anyone. By the time he did testify remotely in Stefanko’s murder trial, however, she had moved on and married his friend Mike Stefanko.
Cobb’s and Biggs’ daughter also testified about Erica Stefanko ordering a pizza but details of her story conflicted with her father.
#StefankoTrial – This testimony is in direct conflict with Chad Cobb’s testimony where he said he heard Erica make the pizza call, he was also wrong about what type of pizza was ordered. So what is the truth? “GC was only 7 yrs old at the time. @LawCrimeNetwork https://t.co/xpoCq2Enyi
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) November 18, 2020
Other evidence against defendant Stefanko included a secret phone recording showing that she admitted to participating in the killing by making the pizza delivery call.
#StefankoTrial – In the secret phone recording that Cindee Cobb recorded with Erica Stefanko, Stefanko says about the bogus pizza delivery call, she “carried out her part…..it’s not like he (Chad)…had a gun to my head but he said this is your part and that’s what I did”. pic.twitter.com/7Ee73PTHqq
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) November 17, 2020
The Summit County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on the ruling, telling Law&Crime that they are still reviewing everything for their next step.
[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]
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